“You can’t beat living here”: inside the Hinz&Kunzt House

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By Ulrich Jonas
German street paper Hinz&Kunzt talks to vendors Klaus and Andrej and social worker Jonas Gengnagel about life in the Hinz&Kunzt House.
Hinz&Kunzt: Can you remember your first night at the Hinz&Kunzt House?
Klaus: Yes, I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep.
Andrej: Before I came here, I’d been staying at different friends’ places, but that was difficult because they all drank a lot of alcohol. I used to do the same, but that was 19 years ago. [Moving in] felt good. One of the others who live here was a good friend of mine. That made it easier.
What was the biggest change?
Andrej: Having my own door, no question. Once I’ve closed it, I’ve got peace and quiet.
Klaus: I’ve lived in house shares all my life – it was nothing new – and I never lock my door, not even at night. But having my own room, that feels great.
Jonas, how did Hinz&Kunzt decide to provide shared accommodation for people with experience of homelessness?
Jonas: For ages, we had dreamed of having somewhere that we could provide for our vendors to live. A lot of our vendors would like to live with others. It seemed like a good idea to try it.
What criteria did you and your colleagues use to select tenants?
Jonas: First and foremost, that they were homeless. They also had to be keen on communal living and to be able to talk to other people, and then the other residents had to agree.
Many people who have experienced homelessness suffer from addiction. Are people allowed to use substances in these houses?
Jonas: Yes, we accept it in principle, because we believe that even addicts have the right to have somewhere to live.

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